There was a performance worth getting excited about over in Winnemucca though.
Sparks junior John Stralla dominated his way to winning the 125-pound regional title this past weekend, making him a two-time regional champ. He won the 103-pound weight class as a freshman.
Stralla is now 33-5 on the year but is still searching for that elusive first state championship after making quick work of his Northern Region foes Saturday. Stralla pinned his first two opponents and then claimed a 9-5 decision in the championship over Lowry’s Bobby Marley.
Stralla wrestled most of the season at 130 pounds only to cut back some weight to make the drop down to 125s at the end of January. He hasn’t lost since, starting his win streak at the Incline Invitational.
“I feel stronger and I feel bigger. But it’s hard cutting all that weight,” Stralla said of the drop down.
Sparks wrestling coach Doug Walsh made the decision to drop him down a weight class because he felt Stralla could be more successful late in the season at 125 pounds and the path to winning the state championship would be a little easier. Stralla’s only losses this year have come at 130 pounds and three of the wrestlers who beat him qualified for state at 130 pounds.
Last year, Stralla ran into a multiple state champion at the 119-pound weight class and took home the silver, but he doesn’t have that problem this year and Walsh believes Stralla is the clear favorite this weekend at the 3A state tournament at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
“This is his year to do it. Since his freshman year, this is his most realistic chance to win a state championship,” Walsh said.
In his quarterfinal match, Stralla will either face the North’s No. 5 seed Cody Villabos of Yerington or the South’s third seed Tyler Washburn of Boulder City, depending on the outcome of the piggy-back match.
Stralla can expect challenges from Southern Nevada champion Shae Bryant of Moapa Valley and Marley, the Northern runner-up. However, Stralla beat Bryant last year in the state semifinals at 119 pounds and is 3-0 against Marley this year. Marley is the only wrestler from the North that has gone the distance against Stralla though. Everyone else has been pinned.
“It’s been my goal since freshman year, and I definitely want it bad this year,” Stralla said. “I’m pretty excited (to go to Las Vegas). I just want to finish strong and make it a good trip. To me this year, it feels like anything less than winning state would be a disappointment.”
Stralla won’t be alone in Las Vegas though. Two other Railroaders qualified for state, although they didn’t make a big splash at the regional tourney.
Anthony Arroyo went 2-2 at regionals to earn fourth place in the 189-pound weight class, and at 130 pounds, Louis Aguilar took fifth place to qualify.
Arroyo lost to the wrestlers who finished in first and third place at regionals, but his first-round opponent at state will be Spring Creek junior Tyler Usko, who claimed the silver from the North.
Aguilar will have the unenviable task of facing either the North (Lowry’s Gus Duncan) or South’s (Virgin Valley’s Jade Jensen) champion in the first round.
Stralla is excited to have some teammates there with him at least.
“It’s an individual sport, but it’s good to have some guys go with you. My main goal is to take home the individual because we only have three guys,” Stralla said.
The 2A and 4A state championships will also be held at Cox Pavilion, so there will be plenty of Cougars and Raiders there Friday and Saturday.
Spanish Springs will be led by a trio of Northern 4A Region champions. Curtis Lampert (103), Todd Pearson (119) and Billy Dean (285) all won their respective weight classes and as the No. 1 overall seeds, will face the winner of the piggy-back matches in the quarterfinals of state.
Joining those three from the Purple and Teal are No. 2 seed Jes Sylvester at 140 pounds and No. 3 seeds Blake Myers and Clay Coleman at 152 and 171 pounds respectively.
While Spanish Springs has checked off the first two season goals on its list, it will likely not approach the third, which was a state championship. Like last winter, Southern power Las Vegas qualified 12 wrestlers for the state meet, twice as many as the Cougars.
The SSHS grapplers still have a good shot to break into the top 3, which would be an improvement over last year’s sixth-place finish in the team standings.
Although, Reed didn’t take home any individual regional titles last weekend, three Raiders will be representing the Blue and Gold in Vegas.
Reed junior Reece Dassinger is the only wrestler back from last year’s state representatives. Dassinger, again earned the No. 2 seed by taking second at regionals and will face off with Legacy senior Dillan Knowles in the state quarterfinals at 152 pounds.
Senior heavyweight Trevor Burns also took the silver and gets Andrew Ramos of Sierra Vista as his first-round opponent.
Sophomore Broc Westlake squeezed into the qualifiers at 189 pounds but must tangle with Sunset Region champion Aaron Garcia of Cimarron-Memorial.
The state tournaments are two-day events in a double-elimination style bracket.